Drivers And Passengers

Authored by: Tim Dant

The Routledge Handbook of Mobilities

Print publication date:  December  2013
Online publication date:  January  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415667715
eBook ISBN: 9781315857572
Adobe ISBN: 9781317934134


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Who is a driver? The question brings to mind the car driver, the person who will get behind the wheel, start the car and ‘drive off ’. The term also fits easily with those who do something similar with trucks, trains, buses and other vehicles, usually with wheels. Who is a passenger? In our contemporary culture we think of the passenger as a person who gets into the vehicle and is driven away by someone else (the car driver, bus driver or train driver). The driver is an active subject and the passenger a passive one; the driver initiates and steers mobility, the passenger gives themselves up to mobility steered by someone else. These are two contrasting subject positions associated within mobility in the twenty-first century, but their social and material relations are undergoing changes and are even converging. Because embodied mobility (as opposed to virtual mobility) is so often tied up with wheeled vehicles, I will take the driver and passenger in the car as the paradigm case. Most passengers in trains or aeroplanes could not become the driver, but the passenger in a car is also often a driver and the driver sometimes a passenger. In this paper I want to explore the connections between these two positions, and in particular what happens when technology turns the driver into a passenger. No doubt there are other modes of mobility in which there is similar potential for the exchange of role between passenger and driver because both share similar skills and competence (the horse-drawn carriage and the bicycle rickshaw perhaps), but the ubiquity and familiarity of the car makes it the ideal example.

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